A Surprising (But Hopeful) Disconnect Between Job Seekers and Hiring Managers

By The Intersect Group

We conducted  – admittedly unscientific – polls on LinkedIn recently (now closed) to both job seekers and hiring managers/company leaders.

The results were….interesting:  Each group was asked to rate among four choices what they believed was the “most important attribute in hiring”:

  • Work experience
  • Cultural fit
  • Specific skill set
  • College degree

One hundred and sixty-nine job candidates voted in their poll and 255 leaders/hiring managers voted in theirs.

A happy surprise (before we get into the disconnect we discovered)

Call us completely gobsmacked: the least important attribute for both groups was the college degree! Just two percent of company leaders thought this was the most important attribute in hiring and only three percent of job seekers believed having the ol’ parchment paper from State U was the most important attribute.

We think it’s great news: it shows that more and more people on both sides of the hiring desk don’t think a college degree is the be-all and end-and when it comes to the qualities/requirements they look for/think are needed to hire someone.

Not every young person graduating high school should go to college or even wants to go to college. Many decide to go to trade school or receive certification in a trade or as a para-professional (think certified nursing assistants or classroom teaching assistants).

Many professions DO require a college degree, but most don’t.  High-level bookkeeper? Legal secretary?  Salesforce admin? Cloud computing tech?

Yet for years many employers asked for at least a bachelor’s degree for these positions.

We find it heartening that only a few of the company leaders who participated in our poll rated it as the “most important attribute.”

And they’re not alone: even Google and Apple have removed the college degree as a hiring requirement.

We hope this trend continues.

Where job seekers and hiring managers agree

There is one attribute where both groups agree: a specific skill set. This was the most important attribute for 28 percent of leaders/hiring managers as well as for 27 percent of job seekers.

This isn’t surprising because we do a lot of hiring and staffing in the information technology sector, one that often requires specific skills and which candidates must have in order to be successful in positions in this industry.

Our job seekers and our clients often are information tech pros and it makes sense that those who took the poll who work in the profession would consider a specific skill set as the most important attribute for a job seeker among the four choices available in the survey.

And now (drumroll), where job candidates and hiring managers disconnect: cultural fit and work experience

The most important attribute in hiring to hiring managers/leaders was cultural fit (46 percent), while the most important attribute in the minds of job seekers was work experience (40 percent).

We find this really interesting! And also hopeful because if hiring managers look at cultural fit as the most important attribute – more important than experience – we think that could mean company leaders would rather hire for attitude (cultural fit) and  then train someone in the needed skills (the work experience). After all it’s far easier to train someone who will fit in well with a company’s ethos and a department’s team than it would be to take someone who has the skills needed but is basically…someone difficult to work with.

You can’t “train” someone to get along with others, believe in a company’s mission, and so on.

“Soft skills” more and more are seen as critical to a new hire’s success

Here’s why: soft skills (sometimes also referred to as emotional intelligence) often are defined as the ability to get along with others, follow directions, have a sense of urgency when it comes to deadlines, work independently as well as part of a team, open to feedback, adaptability, have a good work ethic, and so on.

It’s also an indicator of how long an employee will stay with an employer since a good level of emotional intelligence has been shown to increase an employee’s job performance and satisfaction.

And hiring managers – we believe – have started embracing the hiring of people with soft skills because happy/satisfied workers are more productive and tend to stick around longer.   


How to erase job seekers’/leaders’ disconnect?

Honestly, this most likely is simple: hire more people who fit, who “get you” (while being careful about unconscious bias in your hiring), rather than bringing on those with the skills but without the emotional intelligence.

What do you think is the reason our survey found this work experience/cultural fit disconnect between leaders and job seekers? Tell us!